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Global Change, EcoApartheid and Population Health


... air and water and contaminated food with obvious public health implications. ... will face water shortages and up to 30 per cent of plant and animal species ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Global Change, EcoApartheid and Population Health

Global Change, Eco-Apartheid and Population
  • William E. Rees, PhD University of BC
  • Ottawa, Ontario
  • 5 November 2007

Context An Anomalous Period of Geometric Growth
  • Population has quadrupled to 6.3 billion
  • Energy use is up 16-fold
  • Industrial production has grown 40-fold
  • Water use has increased 9 times
  • Fish catches higher by a factor of 35
  • Carbon Dioxide emissions are 17 times higher
  • Sulphur emissions have increased 13-fold
  • Other air pollutants are up by a factor of 5
  • Accelerating tropical deforestation and

Estimated Human Population over the Past Two
Millennia (Cohen 1995)
2007 Population 6.6 billion
Continuous growthpopulation and economicis an
anomaly. The growth spurt that recent generations
take to be normal is the single most abnormal
period of human history.
Symptom Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Up 30 in
the past century
  • Pre-industrial concentration of GHGs 280 ppm
  • Present concentration 430 ppm (a 54 increase)

N. Hemisphere Temp. Reconstruction
(blue) Instrumental Measurements (red)
Climate Change Summary (IPCC 2006 Consensus)
  • Atmospheric carbon dioxide, methane and other
    greenhouse gases are at the highest levels in at
    least 650,000 years.
  • It is very likely that greenhouse gas forcing has
    been the dominant cause of the observed global
    warming over the past 50 years.
  • Global average temperatures this century will
    rise by between 2C (the target allowable
    increase) and 4.5C.
  • The increase could be enhanced a further 1.5C
    as a result of positive feedbacks.
  • Some warming has been offset by cooling from
    other anthropogenic factors (suspended aerosols).
    (Without this effect, mean global temperatures
    would be even higher.)

Recent Conclusions (Oct 2007)
  • The Arctics floating sea ice is headed toward
    summer disintegration as early as 2013, a century
    ahead of the International Panel on Climate
    Change (IPCC) projections.
  • The rapid loss of Arctic sea ice will speed up
    the disintegration of the Greenland ice sheet and
    a rise in sea levels by even as much as 5 metres
    by the turn of this century is possible.
  • The Antarctic ice shelf also reacts far more
    sensitively to warming temperatures than
    previously believed.

Unprecedented Losses of Sea Ice In 2007
Such massive ecological changes in the
circumpolar Arctic threaten wildlifewe may see
the extirpation of polar bears from much of the
Northand herald the permanent loss of the Inuit
way of life. Diabetes and related health risks
are clearly associated with replacement of
country food with store-bought junk food in
Northerners diets.
Have we passed a tipping point?
IPCC Projections Way Off
Meltdown A hundred years ahead of schedule?
Multi-Layered Auto-Catalysis? (Potential for
runaway positive feedback)
Recent Findings (Oct 2007), Part 2
  • Temperatures are now within 1C of the maximum
    temperature of the past million years.
  • It is now very unlikely ( 10) that the world
    can avoid a potentially catastrophic mean global
    temperature increase of 2 C
  • Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are now growing
    more rapidly than "business-as-usual", the most
    pessimistic of the IPCC scenarios. (Increases are
    35 higher than expected since 2000.)
  • Long-term climate sensitivity may be double the
    IPCC standard (of 3C for a doubling of
    atmospheric CO2)

Probable Impacts of a 3-4 Celsius Degree Increase
in MGT (Stern Report)
  • Major declines in crop yields over entire
  • Sea level rise threatening London, Shanghai, New
    York, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Cairo and areas inhabited
    by 5 of the worlds population (350,000,000
  • Collapse of the Amazon rainforest.
  • Collapse of the Gulf Stream (European cooling)
    and irreversible climate feedbacks, e.g., methane
  • Loss of up to 40 of the worlds species.
  • Loss of the worlds major glaciers shifting
    precipitation spreading deserts here, major flood
    risks there (or both).
  • Major health epidemics particularly among the
    poor and the displaced.

The Economic Driver Our Ecological Footprints
  • The ecological footprint of a specified
    population is the area of land and water
    ecosystems required to produce the resources that
    the population consumes, and to assimilate the
    wastes that the population produces,wherever on
    Earth the relevant land/water may be located.

Eco-Footprints Vary with Income
  • The average per capita ecological footprints of
    residents of high-income countries range between
    four and ten hectares (10 to 25 acres).
  • The residents of the poorest countries survive on
    less than half a hectare.

Eco-Footprint (Gha/Capita)
All countries that run eco-deficits are
dependent on surplus biocapacity (exergy)
imported from low density countries (like Canada)
and the global commons.
Symptom Biodiversity Loss (The Competitive
Exclusion Principle)
  • Growing the human enterprise necessarily degrades
    ecosystems and displaces other species from their
    habitats (biodiversity loss).
  • The current rate of species extinction is
    approximately 1000 times the pre-industrial rate.
  • With increasing resource scarcity, global change,
    and the morals of the new world order, the rich
    will also increasingly exclude the poor.

Competitive Exclusion The expansion of the human
Human Ecological Footprint 1961-2003
…necessarily displaces non-humans (Vulnerable
ecosystems collapse before the human onslaught.)
Living Planet Index 1970-2003
20 of population
75 of world income
1.5 of world income
20 of population
Social Justice and the Income Gap
  • Income ratio between worlds richest and poorest
    countries in 1820 three to one. In 1998 19 to
  • The richest 500 people in the world enjoy a
    combined income greater than that of the poorest
    416 million.
  • The three richest people in the world had assets
    that exceeded the combined gross domestic product
    of the 48 least developed countries.
  • Income disparity is increasing both between and
    within countries, including Canada.

Symptom Eco-apartheid - Competitively Excluding
the Poor
  • Eco-Apartheid is the effective segregation of
    people along environmental gradients
  • With increasing resource scarcity, global change,
    and the competitive ethic of the world economic
    order, the gradient is steepening.
  • Eco-apartheid is a contemporary realityThe rich
    live in the worlds healthiest, most productive
    habitats. Impoverished people and racial
    minorities are often segregated in urban slums
    and degraded landscapes characterized by toxic
    waste, polluted air and water and contaminated
    food with obvious public health implications.

Sunrise in Suzhou What is Canadas contribution
to eco-degradation and damage to population
health in China?
A Lesson from Collapse How Societies Choose to
Fail or Succeed (J. Diamond 2005)
  • Any society contains a built-in blueprint for
    failure if elites insulate themselves from the
    ecological and social consequences of
    irresponsible decisions. (This is the pattern
    among governing elites throughout history.)
  • By extracting wealth from ordinary people,
    distant countries and the global commons, they
    remain well fed while everyone else suffers the
    effects of general decline.
  • The US Canada? is now a country in which elites
    increasingly cocoon themselves in gated
    communities guarded by private security patrols
    and filled with people who drink bottled water,
    depend on private pensions, and send their
    children to private schools (Moyers 2006).

With Knowledge Comes Responsibility
  • At the limits of biophysical carrying capacity,
    routine acts of non-essential consumption can
    result in violent harm to the poor and racial
  • Wealthy consumers who are ignorant of the distant
    systemic consequences of their material habits
    might be excused. However,...
  • Once we raise to collective consciousness the
    link between consumption, pollution and
    eco-violence, society has an obligation to view
    such violence for what it is.
  • Not acting to reduce or prevent eco-injustice
    converts erstwhile blameless consumer choices
    into acts of positive aggression.

Knowledge Where Were Likely Headed
  • 2015 is the last year in which the world can
    afford a net rise in greenhouse gas emissions,
    after which very sharp reductions are required
    (IPCC Chairman, Sept 2007)
  • 5 or more of the worlds people (350,000,000) are
    likely to be displaced from their settlements by
    sea-level rise. (Stern report, 2006).
  • Up to two billion people worldwide will face
    water shortages and up to 30 per cent of plant
    and animal species would be put at risk of
    extinction if the average rise in temperature
    stabilises at 1.5C to 2.5C (IPCC, Sept 2007)

Solution What the Science Says
  • Industrialized world reductions in material
    consumption, energy use, and environmental
    degradation of over 90 will be required by 2040
    to meet the needs of a growing world population
    fairly within the planets ecological means.
    (BCSD 1993 Getting Eco-Efficient)
  • To avoid a mean global temperature increase above
    2 C degrees, the world must reduce carbon
    emissions by 90 by 2050. (Tyndall Centre for
    Climate Change Research 2006)
  • For sustainability with equity, North Americans
    should be taking steps to reduce their ecological
    footprints by 80 to their equitable Earth-share
    (1.8 gha).

The Other Inconvenient Truth Eco-Footprints are
Correlated With Lifestyle
12 April 2007
Losing weight need not be painful
  • In many rich countries neither objective nor felt
    well-being are still associated with rising
    GDP/income per capita.
  • On the contrary, here we see US data showing
    …the strange, seemingly contradictory pattern …
    of rising real income and a falling index of
    subjective well-being (Lane 2000).

What do we Gain from GDP Growth in Rich
(Siegel 2006)
Wasted Wealth Diminishing Returns from Health
Care Expenditures
(Siegel 2006)
Essential Criteria for Sustainability
  • Biophysical A society is sustainable only if it
    does not
  • consume resources faster than nature produces.
  • produce wastes faster than nature assimilates.
  • Social A lifestyle is sustainable only if it
    could be extended to the entire human family
    without degrading the ecosphere and overloading
    global life-support systems.
  • Question Can the already wealthy be persuaded to
    live on smaller footprints so the poor may live
    at all?

  • The Bad News
  • The Good News
  • We have the technology today to enable a 75-80
    reduction in energy and (some) material
    consumption while actually improving quality of
  • Yet we do not act. Privileged elites with the
    greatest stake in the status quo control the
    policy levers. Ordinary people hold to the
    expansionist myth. North American society remains
    in eco-paralysis.

The ecologically necessary is politically
infeasible but the politically feasible is
ecologically irrelevant.